In processing a collection recently at the PCA Historical Center, I came across the following devotional by the Rev. Leonard T. Van Horn. He was instrumental in the organization of Reformed Theological Seminary and he was later one of the founding fathers of the PCA. The following was formatted as a bulletin insert; we have a set of his similarly formatted work on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but this series was one I had not seen before.
To God’s Glory: A Devotional Study of the Reformed Faith for Theological Students
The Subject : Pride.
The Bible Verses to Read : Isa. 42.8; 48:11; Jer. 9:23-24; Mark 7:21; Matt. 18:4; I Cor. 4:10; I Tim. 6:20-21.
Through the years I have learned I will be used by God to the extent I make I Cor. 4:10 operative in my life : “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honorable, but we are despised.” Paul knew the secret of the combination of humility and love and was mightily used by God.
The sin of pride is especially prevalent among young ministers. It is so easy to see oneself standing in the pulpit in the unique status the ministry occupies in the eyes of those present. The position could lead to self-importance, arrogance and deceit.
What is pride? In essence, pride amounts to a declaration of independence of God. It rests upon a false assumption, that of believing I can be something and do something apart from God. It is a fearful thing for it seeks to contend with God.
As a young minister I found myself constantly fighting this temptation. I do not mean to infer I never have to fight it now! But it was a great problem at that time. A person would praise me for a sermon. I would bring forth a thought in the midst of the verbal interchange in which ministers are constantly engaged and I would be praised for it. The glow of pride would well up within me.
It is the Lord Himself who needs to be exalted, no one else. Any excellence should be His and should be desired by no one else. The objectives of popularity, acceptance, and wisdom need to be replaced by service to God’s glory.
How can this sin be combated? There are many ways to mention two will help. (1) Remember the warning declared by God: “For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up and high; . . .and the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the pride of men shall be brought low; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.” (Isa. 2:12, 17). A minister called by God dare not submit himself to the awesome judgment of God through the sin of pride. It is a sure road to falling and thus hurting the testimony of God before an evil world.
(2) Remember the responsibilities of mortification. The Christian life is to begin with the recognition of the total inability of man to save himself and of the knowledge that salvation is merited. All the believer has is from God and it is the duty of the believer to put to death all aspects of pride as it makes itself known in his life.
The believer needs to remember there is very little he has attained. When I think of the many years since God saved me I am ashamed at the lack of progress I have made. He called me and saved me. I did not merit it. He gives me hope even though I am so often hopeless. It is in the state of humility I must stay for He has said, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)
There is a strange paradox at work in the heart of the true believer in Christ. The more he advances in his life with God, the lower he is in his own estimation. Jacob said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies…” (Gen. 32:10) and such a confession is indicative of a close walk with God. This is what leads to the adornment of God so necessary to the servant of God.
Make no mistake about it, the state of humility is hard for it is not natural. It is more natural to glory in oneself rather than in God. There is a strong influence of the flesh within the believer to be “something” when he is “nothing.”
The sin of pride is a very present one. It becomes even worse if a person has outstanding abilities. God has warnings, throughout His Word for the prideful. I pray that you and I will constantly pray to God for grace – and more grace! – in this area.
[This was #2 in the series To God’s Glory, by Leonard T. Van Horn and published bi-monthly by The Shield and Sword, Inc., Centreville, AL. The publication is undated, but would be circa 1970-1976.]